Movie Review: Frozen II, directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee (Three Stars)


Movie Review: Frozen II, directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee

(Three Stars)

“Don’t you know there’s part of me that wants to go into the unknown?”

Disney stroked the money goose and out popped this pleasant, but derivative golden egg. Competent, but not nearly as wonderful as the opening opus. Obviously aimed at the little girls who loved the first Frozen, there’s little here to appeal to their younger siblings, not to mention their parents. (At least there is no danger of anyone singing these songs ad nauseum, which is an indictment itself.)

“Because when you’re older, absolutely everything makes sense.”

The pace is frenetic. No lingering for the beauty; Little to no character development; songs and dialogue rushed through. Olaf has matured into a maxim-spouting Yoda doll. Everyone except sisters Elsa and Anna are extras. The cinematography is amazing; incredible textures.

“We’ve always feared Elsa’s powers were too much for this world. Now we must pray they are enough.”

Elsa gets all the fireworks, but Anna is the soul of the movie. With no help and no hope, she keeps doing “the next right thing.”

“You can’t just follow me into fire.” “Then don’t run into fire!”


Movie Review: Ford v Ferrari, directed by James Mangold (Five Stars)


Movie Review: Ford v Ferrari, directed by James Mangold

(Five Stars)

“Look out there. Out there is the perfect lap. You see it?” “I think so.” “Most people can’t.”

An amazing movie. I went to be entertained; I was moved to tears. Not about cars or racing—okay, peripherally so—but about people. People who want to excel, and people who want to control. They don’t get along in the movie, nor in real life.

“If you’re going to push a machine to its limit, you have to have sense of where that limit is.”

Amazing performances by Matt Damon and Christian Bale with solid support by half a dozen others, especially Caitriona Balfe. If there’s justice in Hollywood—we know there isn’t—this crew should garner several Academy Award nominations.

“This isn’t the first time Ford Motor’s gone to war. We know how to do more than push paper. Go ahead, Carroll. Go to war.”

While Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca are portrayed sympathetically, the rest of “suits” at Ford corporate come off as a bunch a sleazy power grabbers.

“You can’t make every lap perfect, but I can try.”

Movie Review: Harriet, directed by Kasi Lemmons (Four Stars)


Movie Review: Harriet, directed by Kasi Lemmons

(Five Stars)

“God don’t mean for people to own people.”

Outstanding biopic of slave-turned-slave rescuer Harriet Tubman. Well-presented and developed. Extraordinary performance by Cynthia Erivo. Brutally honest about the treatment of slaves and the self-serving hypocrisy of slave owners.

“Find this thief and burn her at the stake like Joan of Arc.”

The reviews are so tepid because Tubman was a Christian; she prayed; God answered her prayers. America’s media mavens could hardly praise anything Christian, least of all a woman of color who took it seriously. Minor continuity errors distracted.

“Harriet, welcome to the Underground Railroad.”

Full disclosure: a friend worked on Harriet. I have no pecuniary interest in his business nor the film.

“I’m going to be free or die.”


Movie Review: Downton Abbey, directed by Michael Engler (Three Stars)


Movie Review: Downton Abbey, written by Julian Fellowes, directed by Michael Engler

(Three Stars)

“I see a Machiavellian look in your eye.” “Machiavelli is frequently underrated.”

Disappointing. They simultaneously try too hard (to replicate the TV series) and not hard enough (to rise above that genre). This movie is more of the same; a fix for Abbey addicts suffering withdrawal, but little to commend itself to a new audience.

“Let’s not argue.” “I never argue. I explain.”

While the setting, costumes and such retain a century-old appearance; the story/stories feel more Continue reading

Movie Review: Ad Astra, directed by James Gray (Three Stars)


Movie Review: Ad Astra, directed by James Gray

(Three Stars)

“We’re all we’ve got.”

Continues the trend of high concept, hard science fiction what-you-see-is-what-you-get movies. As opposed to space opera—mentioning no names, but Star is prominent in their titles. Special effects are well done. Sub-plots for the sake of sub-plots, which make no sense and slow the already glacial pace. Three stars is a gift.

“He could only see what was not there and missed what was right in front of him.”

Brad Pitt is well-cast as an emotionally-frozen protagonist. Tommy Lee Jones shows more acting in minutes on screen than Pitt in over an hour.

“I can rely on those closest to me and I will share their burdens and they will share mine.”

Quibbles: Several incidents pad the movie to add violence and tension but were complete non sequiturs. Pirates on the Moon? Where do they live? Where their air and water come from? Deep space research lab? Why not orbiting in a La Grange point? Baboons kill a dozen people, but the facility looks pristine. The scale of Neptune and its rings is totally wrong. Why didn’t he tether his craft?

“I will live and love.”

Movie Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain, directed by Simon Curtis (Five Stars)


Movie Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain, directed by Simon Curtis

(Five Stars)

“Your car goes where your eyes go.”

I still recommend reading the book first, but the movie was simpler and more powerful. Great story; well told. Mark Bomback’s screenplay is, if anything, better than the book. Kevin Costner was an excellent choice to voice Enzo. Brava performance by Amanda Seyfried. (Rated PG)

“A racer will never let something that has already happened affect what is happening now.”


Movie Review: Overcomer, written and directed by Alex Kendrick (Five Stars)


Movie Review: Overcomer, written and directed by Alex Kendrick

(Five Stars)

“If I asked you who you are, what’s the first thing that comes to mind. Who are you?”

Unabashedly faith-based movie about … well, overcoming, but also redemption and forgiveness.

“When you find your identity in the one who created you, it’ll change your whole perspective.”

The Kendrick Brothers’ movies keep getting better. Hard to say this was better than War Room, but it had more drama and character.

“Your identity will be tied to whatever your heart is tied to.”

The critics hated it, of course.

“Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 5:5)

Movie Review: The Lion King, directed and produced by Jon Favreau (Three Stars)


Movie Review: The Lion King, directed and produced by Jon Favreau

(Three Stars)

Computer-generated remake of Disney’s 1994 classic. The characters look more lifelike but act less so. Not nearly the expressiveness or humor of the original.

The live look increases the impact. Parents of younger children beware.

Stuck to the original score with the addition of a single public-domain staple.

Movie Review: The Farewell, written and directed by Lulu Wang (Four Stars)


Movie Review: The Farewell, written and directed by Lulu Wang

(Four Stars)

“Based on an actual lie” semi-autobiographical movie about a Chinese American dealing with her paternal grandmother’s terminal illness.

High-quality production despite the obvious small budget and lots of on-site filming in Changchun, China. Much tension and comedy as family gathers from America and Japan for a cousin’s supposed wedding.

Movie Review: Tolkien, directed by Dome Karukoski (Four Stars)


Movie Review: Tolkien, directed by Dome Karukoski

(Four Stars)

“Where you follow the rhythms of language, I have to tell you, Mr. Tolkien, I’ve never come across anything like it.”

This movie will bomb. Too intellectual and idea driven, like Tolkien’s stories. Little to no action. Solid performances by a cast of unknowns.

“No … you deserve magic.”

Having read much by and about Tolkien, I can attest that this accurately represents the formative years of the greatest story teller of the twentieth century, despite the Tolkien Estate disavowing the film. In fact, reviewing Tolkien’s biography reveals Karukoski et al. took many liberties with fact, hence my labeling this as historical fiction

“There are cakes.”

Like Disney’s treatment of Madeleine L’Engle’s  A Wrinkle in Time, all reference to Tolkien’s faith was excised. Tolkien wrote, “We have come from God and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed, only by myth-making, only by becoming a ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man ascribe to the state of perfection that he knew before the fall.”

“In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit.”